Our staff are pleased to share the experiences of their travels, project visits and meetings with partners and others. Their blogs give a unique and personal insight into the work of Both ENDS!
and Abigail Kyomuhendo*
This week the annual shareholder meeting (AGM) of TotalEnergies took place. Whilst the shareholders celebrated their profits, Ugandan people were being evicted from their lands, thousands of kilometers away, for Total's East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
Minister Liesje Schreinemacher for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation recently made her first working visit, to Kenya and Uganda. With this visit, the minister made a flying start in honouring the pledge in the new government's coalition agreement to formulate a 'targeted Dutch Africa strategy'. Such a strategy is desperately needed as, too often, our foreign trade is conducted at the expense of people and the environment, including in countries in Africa. The new strategy presents a perfect opportunity to ensure that the 'trade and aid' agendas are closely aligned.
The new year has barely begun but already record high summer temperatures are being reported in parts of South America, especially Argentina, Paraguay and Southern Brazil. The latest heatwave, with temperatures of up to 45C, arrives on top of two years of severe drought which had a devastating effect on the entire region. It is a painful reminder of the immediacy of climate change and emblematic for what happens when vital ecosystems are not protected and for the catastrophic consequences as much on already endangered wildlife as on the local communities who depend on them for their livelihoods. One of the most affected areas are the regions wetlands – unique ecosystems, which are crucial ecological pressure points, vital for the regulation of river systems and huge carbon sinks. Their loss not only has ecological impacts but affects thousands of local communities which depend on their health for fishing, tourism and local agriculture. The threat to them by for example droughts and fires, can be directly linked to the large-scale production of soy, produced mainly for export. This in turn means responsibility for what is happening in the region needs to be acknowledged and shared by leaders around the world, and especially large importers such as the Netherlands.
Pharmaceuticals hold on to their patents and (our) governments do not remove the barriers to free production that were raised under international trade agreements years ago.
If the Netherlands wants to make its agriculture and livestock industry sustainable and to ensure that farmers get a fair price for their products, it will also have to look beyond its own borders. The Netherlands is the world's second largest exporter of agricultural products. We have a great impact because, through our trade relations, we uphold a system of intensive agriculture that destroys ecosystems and undermines local production. Partly due to our trade in agricultural products, the Dutch economy is has a large, and growing, footprint. That should and can be different: the Netherlands is in a good position to lead the required transition in agriculture. Fortunately, the party manifestos for the coming elections offer sufficient opportunities to set that in motion. A new coalition can thus take decisive new steps.
Almost five years ago, the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) started its journey to bring together the often still quite separate worlds of environmental justice organisations and the women's rights movement. At Both ENDS, Annelieke Douma and Tamara Mohr have been coordinating the GAGGA programme. Together they look back at five years of learning, connecting and enjoying the fruits of this innovative programme.
Pernambuco, is in the extreme northeast of Brazil, is one of the country's poorest regions. One of the most important projects aimed at stimulating development in the state is the expansion of the deep-sea port of Suape, complete with an oil refinery and shipyards. The port covers an enormous area; at 13,500 hectares it is bigger than all the different sites of the port of Rotterdam together. Unfortunately, the port lies in the middle of an exceptional and vulnerable ecosystem of mangrove forests and Atlantic rainforest, which are under serious threat from the expansion. Furthermore, the livelihoods of the approximately 25,000 people living in the area are at risk. Most of these people are so called 'traditional communities' of artisanal fisher folk including a number of Quilombola communities whose inhabitants are descended from enslaved people who have lived in this lands for hundreds of years. The communities' fishing catch is visibly declining as a consequence of industrial pollution, the most serious case of which was the oil spill that badly affected the whole coast of Northeast Brazil at the end of last year.
In September 2019, the streets of Jakarta were filled with angry demonstrators protesting against the Omnibus Employment Law. The law will ease the rules for mining, make it much more difficult to hold companies liable for criminal acts and severely restrict the power of the national anti-corruption committee. At the moment, such protests are completely impossible in Indonesia because of the COVID-19 crisis and the associated lockdown measures. And Indonesian people already had few other means of exerting influence on decision-making and legislative processes.
The Rio de la Plata Basin in South America extends across Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The livelihoods of the millions of people who live there – city-dwellers, small farmers and fishers, and indigenous peoples – are under pressure from soya cultivation, mining and logging, and by the construction of dams and ports. The COVID-19 crisis is making the situation even worse.
"The Covid-19 crisis is affecting everyone, but in different ways. In some countries, people are feeling the consequences less than in others, in cities the problems are completely different to in the countryside, and men are suffering from the restrictions totally differently to women. Some of the organisations that we work with in Latin America talked to rural women about the effects of the crisis on their everyday lives and what they are doing to keep their heads above water. Below is a small selection from these conversations (freely translated from Spanish) to give some idea of the situation women in remote areas are finding themselves in, of the enormous solidarity they are experiencing and of the solutions, which largely lie in stimulating local food production." - Danielle Hirsch
You can't eat gold, copper and gas
"The virus is spreading quicker than the information" – that was the first we heard in the Netherlands about COVID-19 in many African countries and the measures they were taking to tackle it. While states of emergency were announced, borders were closed and we saw image after image of violent police and army responses, many people outside the big cities did not know that what was going on. When the situation became clearer, serious concerns arose about the consequences of the measures that had been taken: the informal economy coming to a standstill, food shortages and internal migration flows.
By Daniëlle Hirsch and Maria van der Heijden
The social debate on the Netherlands' role in the global economic crisis is now in full swing. At the centre of the debate is the question: how can we compensate for the setbacks affecting the Dutch economy without losing sight of efforts to make international trade and production chains more sustainable? We – Both ENDS and MVO Nederland (CSR Netherlands) – are particularly concerned about what we hear in these discussions about human rights, climate and the environment. That these are 'luxury problems' which we have no time to address at this time of crisis. And this, while the Corona crisis is showing us just how closely our current economy is irrevocably intertwined with the pollution of the planet and is making people all around the world more and more vulnerable. In short, we have to make our economy more resilient to such shocks. And that means committing ourselves to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the goals of the Paris climate agreement. We therefore address ourselves first and foremost to the government.
Today the Netherlands is celebrating freedom. Our freedom goes further than living in peace. We have the freedom to discuss policy to our hearts’ content on, for example, ending the lockdown on television, in the press and on social media. We can do that freely because we know that our rights to freedom of expression are well protected. But how different that is in countries where authoritarian leaders are grasping the crisis as an excuse to throw these rights out with the trash and rule with an iron hand.
COVID-19is placing our economy under a magnifying glass. Now that a large part of global trade has come to a standstill, the tension between international economic activity and local well-being is becoming more visible. That is very clear in northern Mozambique, where one of the world’s largest gas fields was discovered in 2011. Dutch companies are investing in the processing and transport of the gas.
The world is turned upside down in this pandemic. Ordinary life is disrupted on our end. Many people suffer from the ‘polder lockdown’, although fortunately we have enough resilience and safety nets to meet our most urgent needs. Unfortunately, outside the Netherlands this all too often lacking. Especially in countries where public health structures are weak and where people are in a total lockdown. Because local communities that are shackled today may be hungry tomorrow. And aid and money does not naturally flow to the most vulnerable citizens there. So extra financial support is urgent.
In this time of crisis-driven reflection we can read telling analyses of past and present on all sides which are being translated into agendas for action. Many of the analyses address issues like inequality, climate, the financial sector, health care, education and women’s rights. They talk about ‘what’ and much less about ‘who’ or ‘how’.But a different future can only be built together with everyone, young and old, men and women. This future will not simply happen to us; we ourselves have a hand in it. It is time for new faces around the table, with new voices. It is time for a new future.
After Dutch Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra had brought the fury of the Southern European countries down on his head on 26 March by blocking the European emergency fund, the Dutch were suddenly 'small-minded and selfish‘ (Parool) and we should ‘go on holiday somewhere else‘ (RTL News). The tone was set. The difficulties encountered in making agreements on support at European level contrast sharply with the speed with which the welcome support measures for employers, entrepreneurs and companies had been announced in the Netherlands two weeks earlier. We have learned nothing from our own past, while everyone benefits from greater priority for solidarity.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is often seen as an institution in crisis, powerless and no longer relevant, and especially after US president Donald Trump decided in 2019 to pull the plug on one of the WTO’s most important bodies (the one dealing with trade disputes). Now, more than 150 civil society organisations, networks and interest groups from around the world have signed an urgent letter to WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, because they are seriously concerned about the state of affairs within the organization.
Since his previous government, prime minister Mark Rutte has wanted to create a green legacy with Invest-NL and Invest International, two new financial organisations. With the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, these organisations are more important than ever. Aiming to stimulate investment in sustainable and social projects, they will operate at a distance from the government so that they can act quickly and efficiently. With an initial budget of 2.5 billion euros, they will give financial support to companies active in sectors that the market avoids and which are at the heart of the transition. At Both ENDS, we see that as an essential step in closing the door for good on our old polluting lifestyle and putting sustainability at the centre of developments in the energy sector, in the organisation of our transport and mobility system, in how we produce our food and in the design of our cities.
Photo Blog - Like many communities in Indonesia, life in Semanga Village, West Kalimantan, revolves around a river. The 90 or so houses follow the curving bank of the Sambas River, each with a path down to a small pontoon where fishing traps and baskets are stacked and boats are tied.
Reward high-risk international business projects investing in a green future and stop support for the international fossil industry
The climate is 'hot'. Everyone is talking about it. 'Everyone needs to do something' calls the government in its recently started public campaign. Good plan. Let's really do something. For a start, we can stop supporting international trade in fossil energy by our own multinationals. That would free up 1.5 billion euros which we could use to combat climate change on an international scale and at the same time give our own innovative businesses a boost. Today's Vergeten Klimaattafel (Forgotten Climate Roundtable) will discuss the opportunities for the Netherlands to have a real impact. And those opportunities are enormous. Because our big money and our influence lie beyond our borders.
and Stijn Deklerck of Amnesty International Nederland
On 12 and 13 July, the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) will be holding its annual meeting in Luxembourg. This is the fourth annual meeting of the AIIB which was set up on the initiative of China. As a shareholder, the Netherlands will be attending the meeting.
The European Investment Bank EIB should get rid of its gas-investments, and the Netherlands can take the lead in this. The Netherlands appears to be relying less and less on gas in its energy policy, and also seems to focus on gas-free investments at the EIB. Now it is important to maintain this position and also convince the other EU countries.
On Friday March 29 a special JWHi meeting took place at the Both ENDS offices, making the most of the unique situation having several grantees in Amsterdam for various reasons. The meeting facilitated the rare opportunity to bring together perspectives of the various actors in our fund: the advisory committee, the JWHi team of Both ENDS and last but not least the grantees from Kenya, Brazil and Colombia.
Together with five women from the Platform Suace Pyvyvõhára, I travel to Mingã Pora in the east of Paraguay. Around 45 families from the indigenous Tekohá Suace community settled here in 2016. In Guaraní, Tekohá means 'the place where we are what we are'. They reside in tents - self-made out of waste materials - on a small strip of land with a soy field on one side and a nature reserve owned by the Itaipu company on the other.
Last week Mark Rutte met with Ban Ki Moon, Bill Gates and World Bank Director Kristalina Georgieva in Davos. They are the chairpersons of the Global Commission on Adaptation, which was also founded by the Netherlands. This is an important organisation because, as Rutte wrote on Twitter, "climate change is the biggest challenge of this century," and as an international community we should "pay attention to the problems of the countries that are being threatened by climate change."
Saturday morning, call time at the office is five o'clock. The group of ten people arriving is still half asleep. Like almost every weekend Kalikasan PNE, the organisation where I'm conducting my internship, organizes a field trip. Today, we will we visit one of the fisher communities in Bulakan, where the new airport of Manila is planned.
The climate debate in the Netherlands is bogged down in what we can change at home and does not touch on our actions abroad. And that is a missed opportunity. Precisely because our international trade model is both so influential and, at the same time, such a widespread cause of pollution, changes in that policy can have an immediate effect.
After five years of equivocation the European Commission has proposed a ‘roadmap’ for stepping-up EU action to address its contribution to global deforestation. Despite the escalating impact of EU trade in forest-risk commodities, regardless of repeated calls from the European Parliament for regulatory measures and contrary to the conclusions of the Commission’s own feasibility study in support of legislative intervention, the Commission has ruled-out out any new initiatives, let alone any legislative measures. The Commission’s solution to this complex problem: policy coherence.
Last weekend there was an article in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant about the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project in Kenya. I was surprised and angry about how the story was presented. How can people be so blind to the perspectives of others? And how can a progressive paper like De Volkskrant devote so much space to such an unnuanced account? This is exactly why such projects lead to conflicts.
Photoblog - In 2016, the state forest around the community of Kasepuhan Karang, in Java, Indonesia, was transformed into customary lands. With these newly acquired land tenure rights, the community has started initiatives to use their land in a sustainable and inclusive way. What this means for the community in terms of livelihoods and food security, became clear during a field visit at the start of the Global Land Forum 2018.
From the first moment I arrive in Surabaya, I enter the rollercoaster called ECOTON. I'm visiting them to get to know the work of this long-time Both ENDS partner, and have only three days for this. But ECOTON does a lot, and all of it at the same time. Tirelessly, they work on the protection of the Brantas River.
In 2001 Tanzania and the Netherlands signed a treaty only known to a few; a so-called Bilateral Investment Treaty aimed "to extend and intensify the economic relations between them and to stimulate the flow of capital and technology and the economic development of the Contracting Parties". But signing the treaty was in fact mainly a symbolic act which since then has had little if any effect in this respect. In fact, a report by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis found that BITs have no positive effect on investment in low and lower middle income countries located in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, including Tanzania.
"How many layers of clothing are you wearing? One? No, that's not enough. You should wear your ski pants over your jeans, and change your shoes for snowboots." And there you are, on day 1 of your trip to Mongolia. I had already heard that Mongolia is very cold at the end of November, and with -22 degrees that seemed to be all true.
On 7 February, Dutch newspaper Trouw published an article on abolishing subsidies for fossil fuels. The article claimed that the measure would only generate a limited climate benefit. Yet the study on which the article is based shows the opposite. Niels Hazekamp (Both ENDS) and Laurie van der Burg (Overseas Development Institute, ODI) wrote a short opinion article on the issue.
Pak Japin is a quiet, slim, and softly-spoken man from the village of Silat Hulu, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. I met him at a recent documentary screening in Bali on the fringe of the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) annual conference, where he spoke about his community's nine year-long conflict with palm oil company Golden Agri Resources Ltd (GAR).
We pushed the canoe through the turf and climbing on board he suggested I take the helm while he would hoist the sail. Being aboard this fast sailing lightweight canoe, carried by the swell of the blue sea, brought back images so vividly described in Hemingway's book The old man and the sea. After leaving the coast, going further onto the sea we eventually changed track and went north. I learned from the fisherman that the daily catch of fish was very meagre. Fishermen had to leave home early morning, around 4 AM, and had to venture out far off the coast to find fish. When I spotted my hotel near the beach we set course for the coast. When we had reached the shore again, I paid the fisherman and we parted amicably, in good spirit.
At the end of November EFLAC, the most important gathering of feminists from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, took place in a park just outside Montevideo, Uruguay. Within Both ENDS, I coordinate the GAGGA programme, in which we promote cooperation between the environmental and women's movements. Our partners Mama Cash and FCAM persuaded me that this meeting was the perfect opportunity to find out whether and, if so, in which way women are interested in the environment. They had prepared me for a very intensive meeting, at which the whole spectrum of emotions would be aroused and expressed. I had no idea what to expect and set off with a completely open mind. And so it came that I spent four days among more than 2,000 women from across the continent.
Access to, ownership and control over land is inherently part of a successful implementation of land degradation neutrality (LDN) and sustainable land management. Sustainability often means investing for the long term, and insecurity withholds land users to do so. In particular women's land use rights are fundamental as they are the ones working on the land and thus putting LDN into practice.
Whenever I see pictures of the people in the Dutch province of Groningen whose houses are collapsing because of gas extraction and who, even if they wanted to move somewhere else, would never be able to sell them, I can't help but think of all the people worldwide who have been experiencing the same problems, sometimes for decades. Every time I see the anger and powerlessness of the people of Groningen, the comparison to the many people we have been working with for many years in many parts of the world comes to my mind.
Last month I visited COPINH in Honduras. I stay in their house where I've been before. It has changed.The walls are decorated with colourful paintings, and there are altars for Berta Cáceres, their former leader who was murdered in March 2016. Instead of a simple fence, the building is now being protected by a thick wall with barbed wire. There are security camera's everywhere.
I'm in green Guatemala. But despite the idyllic scenery, the green covers a lot of problems. This I discovered during a trip to the sugar cane plantations at the coast.
This is the text of the speech given by Danielle Hirsch on the 'Nacht van de Tegenmacht' (Night of Countervailing Power)
This year's climate conference had a lot of side-events about gender. Gender is about women and men, not their biological differences, but the differences in for example their roles, their needs, their rights and their access to decision making.
Guest blog by Debora Calheiros, Brazil
The counterpower does not accept 'business as usual' because it is not fair. The race after the big money is not leading to happiness for everyone, and is usually not good for, for example, the environment or women.
To me, our partner organisations are a significant counterpower. Both ENDS supports them to raise their voices in policy discussions. This way I also see myself as a 'counterpower' against the current economic system.